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Anti-Apartheid leader Kader Asmal dies aged 76

The founder of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, and later a government minister, dies in South Africa.

Kader Asmal, pictured in 1990 shortly before returning to South Africa after an academic career in Ireland.
Kader Asmal, pictured in 1990 shortly before returning to South Africa after an academic career in Ireland.
Image: Photocall Ireland

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN paid this evening to the former South African government minister and legal academic Kader Asmal, who has died aged 78.

Asmal had served as Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry in the cabinet of Nelson Mandela, and later became Minister for Education.

Asmal lectured in Trinity College in human rights and international law for 27 years up to 1990, and founded the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement during his time in the country. He had founded the equivalent British organisation while studying at the London School of Economics.

Described as a founding father of the Irish civil liberties movement, Asmal was elected to the National Assembly of South Africa in 1994 where he served until his resignation in 2008.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore described Asmal as an “outstanding man, an eminent scholar and a courageous politician who played a key part in the transformation of modern South Africa”.

Asmal had been an “outspoken voice in defence of the South African constitution,” Gilmore commented, adding: “All this life he was a brave and stalwart champion of human rights.”

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, of which Asmal was a co-founder, also paid tribute. Its director Mark Kelly said Asmal was “a leading light of the anti-apartheid movement” and “a truly exceptional person”.

Dr Maurice Manning of the Irish Human Rights Commission said Asmal had always shown a “deep and abiding concern for his fellow human beings”.

He is survived by his wife Louise and two sons, Adam and Rafiq.

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Gavan Reilly

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